How do you measure creativity? A guide to PR measurement systems that work

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Alex Aiken, when he was head of the UK Government Communication Service, said: “I believe that measurement is the most important communication discipline.”

There are some simple, easy measures you can put in place to evaluate your PR activity and I will outline them below.

But first a philosophical question you might ask.  ‘Does measurement kill creativity in PR?’ Having just read ‘The Tyranny of Metrics’ by Jerry Z. Muller, I’m tempted to say yes.

The following paragraph from the book sums up the problem with measurement which applies to public organisations such as schools and hospitals and, in a much smaller way, PR agencies too:

“Primary schools, for example, have their tasks of teaching reading, writing, and numeracy, and these perhaps could be monitored through standardised tests. But what about goals that are less measurable but no less important, such as instilling good behaviour, inspiring a curiosity about the world and fostering creative thought?”

We work for many organisations in the education sector and are lucky to work for one school which, through teaching the International Baccalaureate Programme, specifically sets out to foster a curious mind and creativity, among other qualities, in addition to the basic 3 R’s among its students. So I know that with the right approach, creativity and measurement can sit comfortably together – in other words, measurement need not kill creativity.

Creativity and measurement can go together

At Twelve we are absolutely wedded to the importance of creativity in PR – after all, the ‘Twelve ideas’ concept, where a new, good idea is presented every month to our clients, is a core part of our service offer.

I don’t see any conflict between creativity and measurement, in fact I think creativity without measurement is pure vanity.  Our business as a PR agency is to help other businesses and organisations thrive, and there are always tangible ways to measure this.

A brilliant creative idea needs to do something, for example increase footfall, achieve sales, build a new business pipeline and so on.

Tips on how to set up a useful PR measurement report.

The most important thing is to make sure that your reporting is ‘light touch’ but effective:

  1. Requires no more than 10 per cent of your own or your agency’s time or budget to produce.
  2. Can be understood and appreciated at a glance.
  3. Can be repeated each month or at regular intervals, such as after each campaign.

Measuring PR activities and outcomes

Measure activities, but make sure you have more information on outcomes.


Keep a record of what your PR agency is doing for you. Ultimately you don’t want a long list of activities, because what really matters to you are the outcomes. However, depending on what your agency has been tasked to do, a summary each month is a useful record.

For example, if it’s media relations, have a summary or list of stories or news items that have been distributed.  You need to know how many have gone out to assess your success rate; to either enjoy it or improve on it.

If the agency organised a series of events, list them.  Outcomes will, in this case, be attendance related: prospects, face-to-face meetings secured etc.

If your agency is creating content, then ensure you have a list of that content, when created and when hosted. But the key thing you need to measure is outcomes.

What PR outcomes should you measure?


Carefully consider the PESO model from Gina Dietrich, which is an excellent framework, shown below, but don’t use it rigidly.

Always aim to find the most simple way to measure what really counts for your business.

PESO Model for measuring PR activity

Reproduced from Gina Dietrich

Paid or earned

The concept of paid and earned is good, so use this as a basic definition to classify any coverage from media relations.  As the number of earned media channels such as national newspapers is diminishing, then achieving a result in them is especially valuable and worth noting.

Table heading showing Earned Media

Table heading to show paid coverage result


You may have pages and pages of content or copy published somewhere but it is of no value, or worse, damaging, if it is saying the wrong thing.  Have some form of assessment of your messages and use the same formula each month.

Google analytics

You could drown in data from Google.  Cut to the chase. We use a framework devised by our friends at Zanzi called a RACE report.

Sample PR digital metrics in a RACE Report

The report is based on answering key questions about the value of your PR activity.

  • Who do you REACH?
  • How do the ACT when they get there?
  • How well do you ENGAGE with them?
  • How many do you CONVERT?

You can see the heading for each element below. The hardest section to complete is the conversion chart, because in an ideal world this will contain your internal sales data. This is the most important measurement of all. If you have set up goals on your website then this should be a key metric in your conversion table.

Sometimes we use CONTACT data from e -shots if sales data is hard to track down.

Website reach different headings

Heading of website actions







Engage metrics tableConvert tables

Measuring influencer activity

Of course you can create any report you want.  Instagram for example isn’t shown in the above table but if that’s what you’re using rather than LinkedIn, switch it round or add it in.

These are just a few effective ways in which you can set up internal PR measurement systems.

There are a host of external systems you can buy such as Kantar Precise for media content or Trackr for measuring Influencer activity.

You will almost certainly need to use an external service to capture and collate your media monitoring if you have a significant PR programme in place.   A quick Google search will bring up a list of these.

Measuring your corporate reputation or values among stakeholder

If reputation management is a key, specific aspect of your agency’s role, then pre and post measurement of what your reputation actually is will be important. Measuring brand values, corporate reputation, perceptions among stakeholders etc., usually requires a third-party service.

If you would like to know which ones we use or would like to achieve PR results that are really worth measuring, give me a call or drop me an email.

Nicky Smith 01608 495014

Confusing messages about recycling are dangerous for us all



This week is my first week back after honeymoon (small brag) spending three weeks in the classic honeymooners’ destination of Bali, Indonesia. It was everything you’d expect – good food, temples, rice fields and romantic beaches strewn with litter.

Aw, yes – that last one, it wasn’t exactly what I’d planned. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying absolutely every beach we saw in Bali was strewn with litter – the ones outside our hotels and beach clubs were crystal clear with an army of staff litter picking as necessary.

Bali's biggest beach clean

Photo credit: Bye Bye Plastic Bags.

The public beaches, on the other hand, had more wrappers, cigarette butts, cans and bags than golden sand.  And I don’t believe it was all washed up marine litter, a lot was just human laziness.

Mel+Bel holding plastic bags at beach Photo credit: Bye Bye Plastic Bags

Mel+Bel holding plastic bags at beach Photo credit: Bye Bye Plastic Bags

The answer to littering – changing human behaviour. These two feisty girls (left) who set up Bali’s ‘One Island One Voice’ and it’s sister organisation ‘Bye Bye Plastic Bags’, certainly believe so, with their island-wide campaign to stop littering and on-mass beach clean ups.  Last year they collected 65 tonnes of waste as part of the 2018 beach litter pick.

But as we know only too well in PR, changing human behaviour and attitudes isn’t an easy task. Recycling champions have been repeating the important messages about disposing of our waste effectively in different forms, across different channels, since I was old enough to hold a felt tip and draw my first poster about the dangers of littering.

Raising awareness

Part of the solution to changing human behaviour and subsequently our increasing recycling rates is raising public consciousness – Blue Planet was enormously successful in pushing litter and marine pollution to the top of the agenda (and received a special ‘Impact Award’ at the National Television Awards in recognition).

As a result of the ‘Blue Planet effect’, we’ve seen a number of changes take place in just six months since it aired; a proposed ‘plastic-free’ mark for packaging; Iceland’s plastic-free aisle; and Michel Gove announcing a government consultation to ban single-use plastic straws and cotton buds.

Clear instruction

The second equally important part of solving the litter problem is cutting through public confusion about recycling with clear instructions. Something which organisations like the Metal Packaging Manufacturers Association are right on top of.

It’s latest ‘Recycling Superheroes’ campaign has a clear message – all metal is 100 per cent recyclable and with a special designation as a permanently available material, it can be recycled indefinitely without any of its properties ever changing.

So, make sure you put your cans in your recycling bin or you’ll have Recyclonic after you! There are other organisations all championing the same message: recycle – the possibilities are endless.

Public confusion over recycling

Yet there is still endemic confusion over what can and cannot be recycled and this is mostly down to the garbage about recycling that’s printed in the media.  When our national press publishes information which is misleading, it makes it harder for us all to adopt the right recycling behaviours and threatens our recycling rates.

Imagine my horror, as a recycling nut, to see The Sun explain the rationale behind a new plastic-free aisle in supermarkets by printing a picture of six different products including crisps, a Mars bar, a jar of fruit, baked beans in a can, a disposable coffee cup and empty metal tins with a caption underneath which said, ‘Here are six items that can’t be recycled’.


As I’ve just said metal is one of the most widely recycled materials in the world. And I can tell you, through our work with client, Cawleys Waste Management, here are the actual recycling facts:

  • Metal cans of any shape or size and glass of any colour can be recycled. Cardboard and paper can be recycled but keep it segregated, dry and clean. Coffee cup and coffee grounds can be recycled, again keep them segregated to maintain their integrity and value.
  • The wrapper on a confectionary such as a Mars Bar is made from oriented polypropylene (OPP) and contrary to popular belief this material can be recycled. The substance has a reasonable value, making it economical to recycle and there are companies which specialise in recycling it. However, this is only viable in post-industrial environments. So, a large manufacturing plant could recycle its OPP, this does mean post-consumer wrappers aren’t recycled.
  • Crisp packets are made from polyethelene terephthalate (PET) and technically this material can also be recycled in an industrial setting. Crisp packets from consumers are not recycled though.

And from that list of products under the caption ‘Here are six items that can’t be recycled’, because they are said to contain plastic, several are widely recycled:

Unfortunately, the picture and captions in the original newspaper article were wrong. The photo and caption were later changed online, but arguably the damage was done; the seed of doubt planted in people’s minds.

So, what’s the answer?

If we’re truly to reach a circular economy, where our resources are never lost, and waste materials recovered, we have to stop littering and aim for the highest possible recycling rate both in our households and across the business world.

This will only be achieved with clear straightforward instructions that humans, lazy creatures of habit, can easily adopt.  As PRs and communication experts we can help play a vital role in getting these messages across – MPMA’s Superhero video has already received over 3,000 views.

So, I’ll leave it to Anna Cawley, Director of Customer Services at Cawleys Waste Management, to sum up four things you definitely should do with your recycling:

  • “Wash your recycling. As contaminated packaging cannot be recycled.

  • “Opt for foods packaged in clear plastic trays over black. Black trays contain ‘black carbon’ a pigment which cannot be recycled.

  • “Separate your food waste. Food waste can be processed by anaerobic digestion creating biofertilser and biogas and saving carbon emissions.

  • “Disposable coffee cups and used coffee grounds can be recycled. People struggle to recycle these because they lack access to the correct waste collection service. You can dispose of disposable coffee cups in some UK outlets –McDonalds has installed recycling units in 80 per cent of its UK stores. And ACE UK has 382 recycling points in 97 local authorities which will accept disposable cups. Find your nearest point online.“

And if you’ve got a message that needs cut through, give me a call or drop me an email – or 01608 495016.


Labelling, healthy eating and ending waste



I was reading an article by David Aaronvitch in The Guardian called “The stomach for it”.

It’s about his experience of a fat camp in America.

It’s a great read, of course, it’s by David Aaronovitch

But it included one sentence about the fat club’s approach to healthy eating which made me really angry.  I mean I understand it, I kind of live it myself, it makes sense, but it’s just utterly, poetically impractical:

“If you pick up any food and it has a label on it, put it back.”

This one sentence connects all the issues that are so very topical now about plastic, packaging, pollution and public health.

What do we do about labelling and healthy eating? 

We work with clients in the food, packaging and waste management sectors.  We’re totally immersed in the whole food cycle from fork to field, to refuse-derived fuel.

We need packaging

I watched Blue Planet, we all watched Blue Planet.  We know we must end pollution of the seas, of every part of our planet.  But ending packaging isn’t the answer as we must also feed 7.6  billion people on our planet.

Three important facts

  • 50 per cent of vegetables and fruits in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America are wasted before even reaching our homes.
  • Per capita food waste by consumers in Europe and North-America is 95-115 kg/year.
  • Per capita food waste by consumers in sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia is only 6-11 kg/year.

Source: Food & Agricultural Organisation of the UN (FAO)

We need labels

We simply can’t afford to go back to a state where all our food is unwrapped and unprotected.  Far too much will be wasted.  Contamination, bruising, squashing, exposure etc. The possibilities are endless!

So it must be packaged in some way, and therefore it needs a label.

Innovation saves waste

Tata Steel has invented the most wonderful mobile canning line, that can (pun intended) massively reduce food waste.

It will play a big part in lowering the percentage of food which is wasted at farming source.

Watch the video:

Imagine a can without a label.   Dog food, tuna, beans or peaches? Last year or ten years ago? We must have labels. I’m using a can to make the point but it applies to any packaging medium.  Is that gin, water or what in that bottle?

Four things we need to end food waste

1. Education

For the label to work we must have education, so that people can read the label and relate it to themselves.

People need to have the knowledge to understand what the facts mean, so that they can make healthy informed choices about what they eat.

Food label, healthy eating

2. Communication

Understanding the food facts is one aspect of communication,  as it relates to healthy eating.  The other aspect of communication is about food and packaging waste.

For the label and packaging to be recycled properly we need innovation and application. There are lots of wonderful innovations in the food chain, for example, Anaerobic Digestion (AD)  for food waste or bio bean technology to convert coffee grounds into solid log fuel

3. Engagement

We need to communicate to people the role they can play in enabling this innovation work. Waste coffee grounds can only be transformed into biofuel if they are collected separately from other food streams. Cardboard can only be recycled if it is dry and clean. Food can only be used in AD if it is collected separately.

Yes, it’s obvious common sense, but you have to tell people to get even this basic message across, and that clearly isn’t happening enough at the moment.

It takes communication and engagement to make recycling work.  That’s why the best waste management companies like our client Cawleys are hugely focussed on communication campaigns

4. Common sense

And the final ingredient must be common sense.  Full marks to Waitrose for ending black plastic in its packaging because black as a colour can’t be detected by infrared waste sorting machines.

Yes, these are incredibly basic, obvious facts but in the drive to eat sensibly and end waste we are forgetting common sense.

If we want to sweep away the tides of waste in our oceans, we mustn’t get swept away in a sea of anger.  We must use our common sense to communicate well.

We need good, intelligent PR